Case Study: How The Rivard Report Generates Three Times More Revenue than the Average Nonprofit Newsroom
The Rivard Report is a standout among nonprofit news organizations in local sponsorship, with a third of its overall revenue from business relationships
Published in August 2020 and written by Emily Roseman
With funding from Google News Initiative (GNI), the Institute for Nonprofit News has launched the Ignite Sponsorship Program to enable a cohort of established nonprofit newsrooms to increase their earned revenue from sponsorships. The first plank of this initiative is an in-depth case study of one particularly successful nonprofit newsroom — San Antonio’s Rivard Report — which has bucked the typical reliance on grants and individual donations by managing to generate about one-third of its revenue from sponsorships and what it calls “business memberships.”
The case study by INN was written by Emily Roseman for Blue Engine Collaborative, a new consortium of independent consultants and advisers with deep experience in driving audience and revenue at for-profits and nonprofits. Contributions were made by Agnes Varnum, deputy director of the Texas Tribune’s Revenue Lab; Steve Shalit, Business Development Director at NJ Spotlight; and Chloe Kizer, a consultant on media operations and growth. A second case study, of Madison365, was released by INN in August 2020.
Download the case study
Here are the five things you should know about why The Rivard Report has been so successful at generating earned revenue:
It creates custom hybrid partnership packages based on client needs. The Rivard Report team works with each client to craft a tailored package that directly addresses their client’s needs. This package could include a range of elements including “flat rate” advertising (as opposed to CPM-based advertising), event sponsorship, and business membership. This method of “consultative selling” is a sales process that prioritizes relationships and open dialogue to identify and provide solutions to a client’s specific needs.
The team actively builds relationships with businesses. The Rivard Report team knows building and keeping relationships with businesses is vitally important. They actively monitor businesses in San Antonio and go out of their way to discover new leads (see the Prospecting or finding new leads section for more on this). The founder largely sets the tone and expectation for his team to create long-lasting relationships.
It has built a relatively large and loyal audience. With a base of 20,000 total email subscribers, 300,000 average monthly site visitors and a hefty following on social media platforms, The Rivard Report has several channels to monetize. We’ll get more into each platform later, but know that each is centered around high-quality journalism and has an engaged following.
It invests in business talent and comprehensive workflows. Each of the team’s five business development leads brings a unique skill set, and the team has established a clear workflow and process for coordinating their different offerings (advertising, events, business membership) while working with clients.
The team carefully maintains ethical boundaries between client and newsroom activities. In order to avoid any confusion with clients, The Rivard Report clearly articulates its ethical guidelines for advertising and sponsored content on the site.
Emily Roseman is a media researcher and newsroom consultant interested in the sustainability of high-quality journalism. Emily has researched and written for the Membership Puzzle Project, the Public Media Mergers Project, the Solutions Journalism Network and Harvard’s Belfer Center. Most recently, she has worked with Blue Engine Collaborative on materials for INN’s Ignite Sponsorship program. Previously, she served as the research project manager for a study at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center that analyzed how nonprofit, single-topic newsrooms can engage and grow audiences. She now works as INN’s Research Director and Editor.